11/26/10 — Volunteers still needed to ring bells at kettles

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Volunteers still needed to ring bells at kettles

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on November 26, 2010 1:46 PM

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Bruce Reid rings a bell for the Salvation Army outside of the Kmart store in Goldsboro. The Salvation Army is looking for volunteers to help raise $60,000 for Wayne County residents this year.

The bells are ringing at area retailers as the Salvation Army starts its annual funding drive to help families in need.

The iconic red kettles are in place around Wayne County as the non-profit organization asks for donations that support its many efforts in the community, including a shelter for homeless men, Christmas presents for children and food baskets for holiday dinners.

The bell ringers will be at locations such as the Walmart on Spence Avenue, the Kmart on Berkeley Boulevard, Big Lots on Berkeley Boulevard and the Piggly-Wiggly in Mount Olive throughout the holiday season.

The group is also still seeking volunteers to donate a few hours of their time to collect donations, Salvation Army officer Maj. Andrew Wiley said.

"We are always looking for volunteer groups to come down and ring for a day. That's always helpful for us," he said.

Several bell ringers set up stations beginning last week. The start was a bit early for the group, which normally begins its big fundraising push the day after Thanksgiving.

The Wayne County Salvation Army seeks to provide toys to more than 1,000 children this Christmas, which is on pace to more than match the final number of families who received assistance last year, Wiley said.

The Salvation Army donations also provide food baskets for families in need, to allow them to cook a Christmas dinner in their own home -- a gift in itself for those who might otherwise go without. About 300 families are signed up to receive baskets this year.

"It makes it personal for them," Wiley said. "It allows these families to have dinner at home, to enjoy that meal."

The Salvation Army donations also provide nursing home residents in the county with small gifts, and a visit with a volunteer. For some elderly nursing home residents, that interaction is a gift, too, Wiley said.

"It's a way of letting them know that at a special time of year they're not forgotten," he said.

The group also runs a homeless shelter for men in need of a safe place to stay while they seek to get back on their feet. The shelter offers 16 beds and supports residents in their job search, but also has a zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. The goal is to help those who need assistance improve their situation, Wiley said.

The red kettle fundraising drive is one of the organization's primary sources of funding. The bell ringers ask only for whatever donors can spare, but even small amounts of money add up to support the programs.

"Those funds that we raise in our red kettle helps to make all of that happen. It's quite a bit, and it costs a lot to make it work, but somehow it always comes together," Wiley said.

Salvation Army officials never know how successful a fundraising year will be, so they have to juggle between the level of need in the community and what the group can provide based on the expected donations.

"We shoot for what we think we can do, but at the same time we just have to take it as it comes. We do budget and hope we reach it, but at the end of the day we have to work with what we have," Wiley said.

The group hopes to raise $60,000 in Wayne County this year to provide for its programs. It's a lot of money, and will take a lot of bell ringing, the major acknowledged.

"It takes it to do what we do, and I think if the community believes in what we do, we can. It's making a major difference in the lives of families and especially children," he said.

People frequently ask him if the need in the county has lessened, but the news is not good, Wiley said.

"The answer is, certainly not. I think we're right where we were last year. The economy, for many people, still has not turned around," he said.

The Salvation Army sometimes hires a few temporary employees to serve as bell ringers, and many people sought to fill the temporary positions this year.

"When we did the application process, so many of them were desperate for work," Wiley said.

But volunteers are critical to the non-profit group, helping the Salvation Army dedicate more money to assisting others in their time of need.

"Our greatest joy is, on Christmas morning, to think about the 1,000 children in our county whose Christmas has been joyful because of the efforts of the community," Wiley said.

To volunteer with the Salvation Army, contact the main office at 735-4811.